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Subject: Major shredding of plot; not for me; but may appeal to some
After just listening to the excellent T. Hynes Librivox recording of Oliver Twist, I was unprepared for the major garbling of the plot which this film involves. However, some scenes and lines are direct from the text: a very weird mix of authentic and fabricated to me. My girlfriend liked it. It has 1930s style acting & styling, so it may not appeal to critical modern viewers. If you enjoy old films and can tolerate the major changes from Dickens' original, it is not a bad film. It wasn't for me.
Rainy Tuesday at the Movies -
Subject: Dickens Lite
David Lean this isn't. Still, poverty-row Monogram should be commended for taking on such an ambitious project. How well they pull it off is another matter altogether. Dickie Moore was a ‘cute’ child actor of limited thespic abilities. Irving Pichel on the other hand is perfectly cast as Fagin. Unfortunately, the lackluster script which pares Dickens’ great novel down to the barest of bare essentials, pretty much sinks the whole endeavor. One effective scene involves young Dickie/Oliver doing somersaults in hope of a few coins which are meanly withheld by an arrogant coach passenger. Sum up: not much, but if you have a little extra time and/or are an avid Dickens fan (that’s me!), there are worse ways to kill an hour.
Subject: Major Plot Elements Missing + Terrible Casting = Worst 'Oliver' Adaptation Ever
This film has nothing to recommend it. First, it is a dreadful adaptation of the novel. It leaves out several major characters and episodes. Virtually gone are Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, who know the truth of Oliver's parentage. Gone is undertaker Sowerberry and his sadistic family, who do their best to break Oliver's spirit. But most important of all, gone is Oliver's nemesis Monks, the man whose whole future rests on ruining Oliver's life. Scenes where Brownlow witnesses, and then rescues, Oliver from the abusive police and courts are eliminated, so we don't understand why Brownlow takes an interest in the boy, or why the boy trusts Brownlow. So much for dramatic tension and character development. Second, the acting ranges from terrible to barely adequate. Dickie Moore, acting like a plucky male Shirley Temple, is horribly miscast as Oliver. As soon as he opens his mouth you know this boy has never been beaten, never gone hungry, never been cold and friendless and desperate. The whole point of Oliver's character is that he HAS been through all these things all his life, and yet refuses to become one of Fagin's thieves. We're supposed to root for Oliver because he is noble, and because evil forces (including the missing Mr. Monks) are actively trying to destroy him. Dickie Moore and the script convey none of this, so it's really hard to root for Oliver. Nancy (Doris Lloyd) is the only truly sympathetic character in this movie, but you never believe that she wouldn't just leave Bill Sykes and the gang, because this Bill is a pale shadow of the vicious, threatening presense that is supposed to have complete power over her. The only thing the film makers got right is the final, disturbing scene between Fagin and Oliver in the jail house. What a strange choice to jettison major fundamental plot elements, and yet depict this scene so faithfully. Lastly, the sound is very scratchy, but then, it's not worth the effort to hear the dialogue anyway.
If you want to see two excellent "Oliver Twist" adaptations, I highly recommend David Lean's 1948 movie with Alec Guiness as Fagan and John Howard Davies as a very credible Oliver, or the brilliantly acted 1999 made-for-TV mini-series with an outstanding cast, led by Robert Lindsay (Fagin), Andy Sirkis (terrifying as Bill Sykes)and Michael Kitchen (Brownlow). Both versions take liberties with the story, but then all versions do, and at least those two are top quality. Heck, even the 1968 musical 'Oliver!' has more dramatic tension and believalbe characterizations than this ill-concieved, badly-executed 1933 film.
Subject: Short Summary
This film is a short summary of the novel. For everybody who doesn't want to read the book, but wants to know what is in there. The acting is better than I thought before. Only Dickie Moore is not that Oliver Twist I wanted to see. Irving Pichels Fagin is as good as every Fagin I saw.
Subject: Literal Translation
Normally I like movies that keep to the book.
But this sticks so close to the book that it makes it somewhat stiff, like following the manuscript is the only objective.
If you have a book report due on this particular story, then this is the movie to watch.